U.S. Naval Operations in Africa and the Mediterranean
1:30 P.M. EDTMODERATOR:
Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Today, we have Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, who is going to talk about U.S. Naval operations in Africa and the Mediterranean. Without further ado, here is the admiral.ADM FITZGERALD:
Thank you very much, and just by way of introduction, I wear three hats in here, and one of those hats is a NATO hat, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, where I can – am responsible for Southern Operations in NATO. So those operations include the Balkans, they include operations in Iraq, operations in the Mediterranean. And we rotate our operations in the Horn of Africa, so while my command has done operations in the Horn of Africa on the NATO side, we’re not currently doing those; Lisbon is doing those.
On the U.S. side, I basically have two commands. One is Navy Europe and one is Navy Africa. And so I deal with the countries from the North Pole to the South Pole, in Europe and Africa, and have several ongoing operations which we’re going to talk about today.
So I know that a lot of you are interested in Africa, and I would tell you that the United States Navy, in the last three or four years, and certainly in my period of command, which has been for the last three years, has been conducting, under multiple national flags, an operation called Africa Partnership Station. And the intent was to make this operation into an operation that could be viewed as many, many nations trying to help Africa. And as such, we recruit the nations not only of Europe, but also North America and South America, so you see Brazil playing in this operation.
And then we also have the nations of Africa, who want to participate – all participate at the staff level to create the staff that implements the Africa Partnership Station, as well as the training audience, per se, for this. We’ve done it on both the East and West Coast of Africa. Our primary focus, I will tell you, though, has been in the Gulf of Guinea on the West Coast of Africa.
And if you ask why, I would tell you for several reasons. One is that the natural resources that are in the Gulf of Guinea obviously impact the world’s economy – the hydrocarbons coming out of there, the mineral resources, and the raw materials that power our nation’s economies are very much focused in the – on the West Coast of Africa. But threats there are pretty significant.
We’re seeing piracy not only in Somalia, but we see piracy pretty significantly in the Gulf of Guinea. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is very different than the Horn of Africa. Horn of Africa, it’s – and Somalia, it’s a piracy that’s nonviolent for the most part. It revolves around capturing ships and taking – and trading for ransom. In the Gulf of Guinea, it focuses on violent kidnappings. Sometimes deaths occur and then people are held ashore for ransom and that’s how it goes. I think you probably saw just today that Cameroon had an incident where an offshore barge was taken and two people were taken captive on that. That’s typical of the piracy that you see on the West Coast of Africa. So that’s the first problem.
The second problem we see is drugs. On both the East Coast and West Coast of Africa, we’re seeing them being used as transshipment points for drugs. Of course, cocaine coming out of South America. We’re seeing a large diversion of that coming through Africa now because the North American fence is starting to have an impact – both letting people move – or letting the drug cartels move drugs through North America, so they’re taking the easier route through Africa, transshipping them up into Europe. And of course, from the East Coast, we see the African heroin coming down and being transshipped through that side. This has an effect of destabilizing the governments down there and we see that in countries like Guinea, which just went through a pretty violent period this last year.
The third problem is illegal fishing, and you say, “Well, illegal fishing couldn’t be that bad.” Well, illegal fishing, of course, was the start of the Somalia issues as the pirates took to sea because the fishing stocks were being fished out. In the Gulf of Guinea – the European Union in 2008 issued a report saying that the Gulf of Guinea was losing over a billion dollars, up to a billion and a half dollars a year, in fish that was being illegally taken in the Gulf of Guinea in the economic exclusion zones.
And so that’s had two effects. One is, of course, it robs the economies of the area of that money, but it also depletes the fishing stocks and the fishermen who make their livelihood off of that aren’t able to do that. So you put that on top of the migration that’s happening, 6- to 800,000 people a year moving north into Europe because they can’t make a living, and you start to have this significant group of effects that starts to destabilize the whole continent. And we believe, in the U.S. Navy, that maritime safety and security, if left unchecked, is going to create more and more of a problem in the area.
And so as we look at what we’re doing with Africa Partnership Station, we’re trying to build the capacity and capability in those regional and local navies to enforce their economic exclusion zones. We do that by taking many of those countries’ sailors on board, giving them training and everything from seamanship, navigation in law enforcement, in maritime interception operations, and things – mundane things like small boat engine repair so that they’re able to keep their equipment running.
We’ve also helped them establish monitoring stations ashore so that they can see what’s out on their seas by providing them stations that interrogate the automatic identification system on ships and radar, bringing radar in, and then establishing regional maritime awareness centers in countries like Nigeria that are able to coordinate the operations and do things at sea. We’ve also used our U.S. Coast Guard to teach maritime law and legal enforcement of those laws. We’ve actually seen that help in places like Sierra Leone, which has now been able to catch several ships out there illegally fishing.
So there’s a lot of very positives we’re seeing coming out of the Africa Partnership Station. We’re seeing other countries send ships down there under the Africa Partnership Station banner. We’ve recently had the Dutch, the Belgians, the Spanish, and currently, the United Kingdom has HMS Ocean down flying the Africa Partnership Station banner. So the emphasis here is it’s not a national program – the U.S. is certainly sponsoring it – but it’s something that many countries have gotten on board and want to help.
So that’s roughly what we’ve been up to. We can go to others areas if you’d like, but thought I’d outline what we’re up to and then let you all ask some questions. MODERATOR:
Okay. As we move into the Q&A, please speak into one of the table mikes – you don’t have to shout into it or get really up close to it – and state your name and publication so that the admiral knows. And then you must stick to questions on African and on EU naval operations or anything that the admiral has talked about.
So, please go ahead.QUESTION:
Yeah. Now, this is a question that is somehow related to the fishing issue, but quite different one. It’s – there had been just yesterday this incident between a Libyan coast guard ship which attacked a fishing boat from Italy in what the Libyans claim are their waters, where, by international laws, those are international waters.
Now, this raises, again, the issue of safety and security in that part of the Mediterranean Sea. In this perspective, I would like to know what is your opinion on this incident, on the Italy-Libya friendship treaty, and also on the request by Colonel Qadhafi that all countries that do not border the Mediterranean should not have their navies there, which obviously include the U.S.?ADM FITZGERALD:
Sure. Well, let me start with the last part first. I mean, international law is extremely clear on this, that both commercial shipping and navies of the world are able to sail pretty much anywhere they would like as long as they observe the laws of the sea. And so while maybe it is wishful thinking, clearly, I think international law would support the fact that any ship and navies are able to sail as long as they’re conducting their business in accordance with international law. So that’s the way we will conduct our business, I believe.
The second part of that – and I am not extremely familiar with the case. I understand that the ship was – what was reported in the press. And that’s all I know, was it was 30 miles north of the Libyan coast. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, so I can’t comment. There certainly are standards that are enforced by nations on their economic exclusion zones, which can go out as far as 200 miles. So once again, I can’t be the judge of whether this fishing vessel was illegally fishing or whether it was – just got conducting normal operations or whatever. So I believe that’s clearly up to the lawyers to decide whether this vessel was conducting legitimate transit operations or whatever. And so I can’t comment a whole lot on that.
I know the Libya-Italy friendship treaty, I think is a good one. A lot of the illegal immigration that Italy has problems with has roots coming off the Libyan coast. So the enforcement of those kind of things is very important, and that’s one of – certainly, the mission of the European Union down there and their Frontex operation is to try to deter that smuggling. So I wish I could offer you more on that, but without having real specific facts on that, I can’t tell you a whole lot more.QUESTION:
Thank you. QUESTION:
Mina Al-Oraibi, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. I want to ask you about the incidents off the coast of Somalia. In the past year, have you seen a reduction? I know in the second half of 2009, there was a significant reduction from the first half of 2009. How has the first half of 2010 gone and – so in terms of numbers, but also in terms of operations? And I wanted to ask you a second question related to that, is what happens to pirates that are taken prisoner or that are captured? Has that been --ADM FITZGERALD:
-- resolved, that particular issue?ADM FITZGERALD:
Yeah. I’ll answer this in general because the 5th
Fleet, which is in Bahrain, is in charge of that particular part of the operation, but I do some of the piracy ops second.
I think the number of successful piracy acts is down, and particularly within the corridor that we’ve established through the Gulf of Aden. That has dramatically decreased the number of attacks. Where pirates have been successful are ships that typically don’t do the – execute the safety measures that we’ve talked about as far as putting devices on their ships, barbed wire, those kind of things and making it hard for the pirates to come on board. So yeah, the numbers are down. My concern is that as the season now changes and the monsoons quiet down there’s certainly been activity ashore getting ready to go back to sea, so I think we’ll see an upsurge in piracy attempts here.
And no matter how many warships you put down there, you’re talking about a coast that’s thousands of kilometers long, you’re talking about an ocean that’s tens of thousands of kilometers wide. So it’s virtually impossible to cover every bit.
And you say, well, why can’t you just find the skiffs? Well, there’s thousands of skiffs out there, many of those by – or most of those are legitimate fishermen that are out there at sea. And so unless you are able to detect a piracy attempt while it’s occurring, which is a very short window, or you’re able to see the telltale signs of a pirate, it’s very hard to stop all of these. So I think there’s some best practices that have clearly been given to the commercial industry on how they can stop this. Many of the commercial ships have gone to security teams on board and that has had – made good progress on deterring these attempts. But the real solution, obviously, is ashore and how do we stabilize Somalia, how do we go after the money, how do we stop the logistics flow.
And then your last question about what do we do with these people --QUESTION:
Mm-hmm. ADM FITZGERALD:
-- is the toughest one. It’s not a military issue. It’s obviously in the domain of the diplomats and politicians. We can imprison a lot of these people, but I’m afraid that for every one that we imprison there’s a hundred or a thousand people ashore are ready to do this because you’re talking a country that’s so incredibly poor and people who are trying to survive. So I go back to my original comment: We’ve got to fix the problem ashore.QUESTION:
Mm-hmm, perfect. So just to follow up on the last part –ADM FITZGERALD:
-- about imprisonment and so forth. I know you said the 5th
Fleet deal with this issue. But could you go into the procedure at all? If there – if any are captured, how – what happens?ADM FITZGERALD:
Right. There’s – there are agreements between nations with countries like Kenya and the Seychelles.QUESTION:
There are – the European Union has I think also an agreement. I don’t believe NATO currently has an agreement. And so pirates could fall into any of --QUESTION:
Or the – as they’re captured, they could be in any of these categories. And it – so it could either be – depending on which flag the ship if flying, if European Union or a country that has bilateral agreements, they could turn the pirates over to one of the cooperating countries to prosecute. They can bring them back to their home country and prosecute or they take away their weapons and they send them back to Somalia for repatriation. So those – all of those things are happening, depending on level of evidence --QUESTION:
-- willingness of the particular country, those kinds of things.QUESTION:
Final follow-up, I promise. I just want to say is there a particular procedure that the U.S. follows or is it depending on case by case?ADM FITZGERALD:
The U.S. has used a lot of --QUESTION:
Follows --ADM FITZGERALD:
What I – almost all of what I’ve described. I mean, we’ve got pirates who were tried in New York. We’ve got pirates that have been turned to Kenya. We’ve had pirates that are turned to stations. And we have pirates who haven’t been put anywhere.QUESTION:
Sir, just a follow-up. You said --ADM FITZGERALD:
-- and you said it before that to follow those pirates – the boss of the pirates onshore, do you support going – a UN force or somebody going into Somalia and really raid those compounds where the bosses live?ADM FITZGERALD:
Those are obviously political decisions, and clearly there’s issues with all of that. You’ve got, at any given time, 10 or 12 ships that are captive, and so you have essentially hostages on board. And so those are hard decisions that would have to be made. But before we would even think of those kinds of operations ashore, I would say that we should go after the money issue, particularly. We know that a lot of the rich Somalis are buying real estate in Kenya and Ethiopia. I think we probably know where that money might have come from. I think we could go after the logistics piece where Somalia doesn’t have a large number of outboard motor producing factories or things like that, so they’re getting that stuff from other places, so we could stop the logistics. And the middlemen who take care of all the financing, certainly we could go after some of them and – so I think there’s – I think there’s a lot of non-lethal things that could be done. When you start talking lethal attacks on the shores of Somalia, you start getting into second, third order effects that you may or may not want. So those decisions are clearly decisions that are going to be made in places in capitals. But once again, I would say let’s try the non-lethal means first. QUESTION:
So the law enforcement –ADM FITZGERALD:
-- instead of military.ADM FITZGERALD:
I have another question. Now so many countries are sending navies into the region to patrol the area. Is it getting a little too congested, too confused? And what’s the next phase? Do everybody just – just do their own and protect their own countries or you have some kind of coordination through the SHADE arrangement?ADM FITZGERALD:
Yeah. I would say that the tactical piece of this, which is the ships coming in, has been the most successful piece. You talked about the SHADE agreement. SHADE has allowed all of the nations to coordinate, and I emphasize the word “coordinate.” There’s no commander here; it’s coordination. But what that’s allowed us to do is de-conflict in what areas what ships are going to operate in, and it’s been I think very efficient and very effective. So yeah, I mean, I don’t have any concerns about that piece of it. And as far as ships flying national flags and wanting to be convoyed and whatever, those are national decisions that, if that’s what the countries want to do, they just coordinate that with the – through the SHADE process.
So convoying has pluses and minuses to it. So it certainly delays the arrival of ships because they have to marshal and then convoy, and that costs money to the commercial shippers. So a lot of them will not want to do that. There’s a lot of ship types that don’t need to be convoyed because they go fast enough that pirates can’t grab them.
So once again, I would say that it’s up to – those kind of decisions are up to nations. But I think our goal is to preserve corridors that ships feel comfortable transiting through. And where we don’t have ships to make sure that those commercial shippers understand that they need to have certain measures aboard their ships to protect them.QUESTION:
Jungwook Kim from Joong-Ang Ilbo South Korea daily newspaper.ADM FITZGERALD:
Just a simple question regarding the activity for counter piracy. How do you work with the Korean navy and how do you (inaudible) the Korean navy’s operation?ADM FITZGERALD:
I’d love to tell you I knew. Unfortunately, because they work through Bahrain, I can’t get into specifics. But what I do understand is they’re integrated into the whole CMF process out there – the Coalition Maritime Force process – and take that position just as all the other ships do. I don’t think that there’s any country that I would say we would not accept their ship, and I have not heard anyone complain about any country’s performance. So I would have to say that they are fitting right in and integrating right into the entire scheme.
I think it’s important that nations put ships out there. And I certainly commend Korea for coming such a long way to do that, and I know you have maritime interests worldwide and it’s a very important part of the game.QUESTION:
Again, I’m from Japanese (inaudible). As I used – I used to be based in Africa and so much interested in what is happening around Africa, and I have some questions on the opening remarks.ADM FITZGERALD:
First of all, you talked about a policy in West Coast of Africa and pursuing the (inaudible). And I’m not aware how many instances you (inaudible). Do you have any statistics about that?ADM FITZGERALD:
I’d have to calculate. The number 38 last year sticks in my mind, but I’m not sure whether that’s --QUESTION:
Yeah, something – but I’m going to have to – we’ll have to get you some specifics on that.QUESTION:
I see. It’s kind of – the number is on (inaudible)?ADM FITZGERALD:
Do you have any idea who are conducting such kind of piracy?ADM FITZGERALD:
They’re mostly – it started out confined mostly to Nigeria and the Delta region.QUESTION:
Ah, yes.ADM FITZGERALD:
And it’s spread now down into Cameroon. And the – we’ve seen pirate attacks for robbery along the Gulf of Guinea on the – I guess it would be the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea where pirates will come aboard. They’ll rob the ship’s master and then quickly leave the ship, those kind of things. So we’ve seen those kind of attacks on the northern coast. We’ve seen the kidnappings primarily in Nigeria and Cameroon. QUESTION:
I see. So is it kind of the criminal related to the oil production companies based there?ADM FITZGERALD:
A lot of it – a lot of the kidnappings are what we’d use the term Westerners who are the non-Africans that are working in the oil industry.QUESTION:
I see.ADM FITZGERALD:
I say a lot – and not all – because some of them are the crews of ships that are transiting through the area also. QUESTION:
I see. And the other question is about illegal fishing, because, as you know, Japan is one of the biggest consumer of fish, so I’m wondering where these fishes are heading for. (Laughter.)QUESTION:
Tokyo. (Laughter.) Or China, Thailand.ADM FITZGERALD:
You mean the illegal fishing?QUESTION:
Yes. I mean –ADM FITZGERALD:
I pointed to the European Union report and I think the European Union report broadly outlined that it was European navies, navies of Japan, China, those kind of – not navies, I’m sorry, fishing fleets from both European countries and from the Asian countries that all come through there and may not use – get inside the economic zones of these countries. But once again, I’d point you to that European Union report on illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea. QUESTION:
I see. And you also talked about – touched upon the cooperation between African countries and governments, and I have no idea – how many African countries have decent navy forces?ADM FITZGERALD:
I would say the bigger the country, the better the navy. South Africa, clearly, has had a very good navy. I think Nigeria’s navy is okay. Senegal is coming along and Ghana, on the east coast of Africa, certainly Kenya and Tanzania do pretty well. And what our focus has been is those smaller countries to build up their capacity and capability and then integrate them regionally so that we’re able to – because a lot of those – a lot of this traffic crosses through all of the countries – to try to form a regional means and mechanisms to respond. In the Gulf of Guinea in particular, we’re trying to use the ECOWAS consortium to help. There are – the smaller navies have things they can contribute. They have smaller boats but are able to fit into the bigger picture, those kind of things.
So I guess what I’d tell you is that it’s not going to be a short process. It is – it’s a long process, but that every year we’re seeing the capability of these navies increase. And I use the term “navies.” A lot of them are coast guards, not navies. But the enforcement capability, the ability to see a picture out there on a display and then direct their boats to go out and do that, developing their infrastructure – we’ve tried to use some of not just the U.S. money that’s available but some of the European money to improve their infrastructure, and we’ve used some of our excess – we call them excess defense articles. So for instance, Nigeria got a couple of coast guard boats a few years ago. We’ve used some money to – of our U.S. money to buy – they’re called defender boats. They’re about 30 feet long. They’re outboard motors on them. They’re what our coast guard uses and our navy and shore guys use.
So a combination of developing countries’ physical capability, professional sailors’ ability to repair things, ability to maintain their infrastructure and respond, and then bringing in other resources to then buy them things that will be of use to them. It’s no use of us buying a frigate-size boat for a country that can’t maintain two outboard motors, so we’re trying to scale our investments to the capabilities of the countries.QUESTION:
Can I ask just a few – ADM FITZGERALD:
-- China-specific questions?ADM FITZGERALD:
Have you had any exchange with the Chinese navy – I guess maybe not – in the Somalia coast or in this whole effort and –ADM FITZGERALD:
No, the only exchanges we’ve really had have been – China, of course, has ships in Horn of Africa doing counter-piracy operations, and those ships have pulled in Djibouti. And in Djibouti we have a coalition base there that we’ve been able to interact with the Chinese navy on. And I know that China is sending over one of her hospital ships to do some work on the Horn of Africa, which I think is a great thing.
One of the things – we tried a couple in the Africa Partnership Station – is the medical capacity and capability building. You have to be able to – there’s an old proverb about you buy a man a fish and he eats for a day. QUESTION:
(Inaudible.) (Laughter.) ADM FITZGERALD:
Funny, I remember it from the Bible – (laughter). QUESTION:
I don’t know.ADM FITZGERALD:
But if you teach him to fish, he has fish for life, right? So as – so when you look at the hospital ship, for instance, if you can bring the people ashore and teach the people ashore how to be good doctors and nurses, you maybe give them some medicine so they can treat the people, it’s just a wonderful thing. And so those are the kind of things that I think all nations should be doing. And China’s going to do this with her hospital ship, we do that with our hospital ships, and particularly things like countering AIDS and those kind of issues down in Africa are so important to their recovery.QUESTION:
Yeah. The mission that was just finished, the 5th
mission, I guess, for the counter-piracy, they (inaudible) the Suez Canal, they made port calls in Italy and Greece.ADM FITZGERALD:
Do you have any comments or do you observe those kind of movements? Because those are the first ones.ADM FITZGERALD:
It’s typical actions taken by a new kid on the block. What’s your reaction to that?ADM FITZGERALD:
It kind of goes back to the question Federico asked, which is all nations have the right to sail the waters of the world. And I think that the more partnering that nations do, the more interaction nations do, the more confidence you get in each other, that you start to understand other people. So I think it’s a great thing to have ships go to other people’s ports. We’ve been doing it for a long time. And I’ve sailed all the nations – I’ve sailed all the oceans of the world and I’ve just met terrific people in every port that I’ve gone to. But I think that the ability to – your sailors to be ambassadors for your nation is incredibly important. QUESTION:
So I have some follow-up questions -- ADM FITZGERALD:
-- on the piracy off the coast of Somalia. ADM FITZGERALD:
Needless to say that Al-Shabaab is running (inaudible) very active in Somalia now. And do you think that they are behind these piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia? ADM FITZGERALD:
Everything we’ve seen to date has been no, that this is – these are the northern clans who are not part of the Al-Shabaab. The fear, of course, is that we end up with them – Al-Shabaab and these clans joining together, and we’ve started to hear some noises about that possibly happening. That will add a new dimension to it, I think. But without getting into any kind of classified discussion or anything, right now I’m not certain that any of the money is going anywhere other than to the clans and the clans are using that money primarily to finance the – to pay the people and continue their piracy operations. QUESTION:
I see. So – but you – well, could you elaborate on what you’ve just said now? You hear some noises that --ADM FITZGERALD:
I mean, there’s been articles in newspapers that I’ve seen that would – that start to talk about al-Shabaab making pitches to the clans on this. As you said, Shabaab has been moving north and eventually they’ll move into the areas where the pirates are, and what kind of deals will be made, who knows. QUESTION:
Some people also said last week – was it last week? – the Japanese ship tanker was attacked in the Gulf of Hormuz or somewhere by a small bomber.ADM FITZGERALD:
Yeah, that was -- QUESTION:
I forgot what he (inaudible). But – ADM FITZGERALD:
That was about a month ago, I think, about a month. Yeah.QUESTION:
And so maybe people are talking now piracy and terrorists will team up and do a new – ADM FITZGERALD:
Yeah, it’s pretty hard to draw a link between Iran – I mean -- QUESTION:
I mean, yeah, right.ADM FITZGERALD:
Or wherever that happened in the Straits of Hormuz between Iran and UAE. QUESTION:
They’re not sure where the boats came from, I don’t think. But that was certainly not – I don’t – well, anyway, it does not appear that that was an incident linked to what goes on in the Horn of Africa.QUESTION:
And my – another question. Sorry, a question –QUESTION:
I have another question, too.QUESTION:
So sorry. Yeah, so I have question related to the question you have just answered. Yeah. So do you expect any terrorism activities off the coast of Africa, especially in the eastern coast of Africa, I think given that activities of al-Shabaab is becoming so active in recent months?ADM FITZGERALD:
I mean, clearly we’re – that’s something that our force protection folks look at very carefully. I mean, history down there has been of terrorism. You think back to the Dar es Salaam and Nairobi bombings, and so those things have happened fairly significantly. Whether it moves to sea or not is – it’s a lot harder to do it at sea than it is ashore, so I would say that we’re more concerned about the shore side right now.QUESTION:
And have you ever observed any kind of such activities or terrorism activities during your duty?ADM FITZGERALD:
I’m trying to think, and I don’t recall any terrorist activities at sea. I mean, most of them are – you would categorize as criminal (inaudible). And the – I’m thinking back. The only thing I remember is the tanker in Yemen that was bombed up there about two or three years ago. I’m – I can’t remember exactly when that was, but if you recall, it was an oil tanker that was attacked and bombed off the coast of Yemen. That’s the only terrorist one that I can recall, unless anyone else remembers any. Yeah, I think that was – okay.QUESTION:
And I guess you already answered my question – the last – the next one about the Chinese navy or Chinese military in general with U.S. military. ADM FITZGERALD:
Is there any potential for them to work together in Africa at all? But I think hospital ships would be a great choice because that’s really what they need.ADM FITZGERALD:
Yeah, that was what I was getting at is that what I want to – what I think is important is that we don’t duplicate efforts. And so it’s – for instance, if the U.S. were to send a hospital ship to the same ports that the Chinese ships come in, it would be -- QUESTION:
(Inaudible.) ADM FITZGERALD:
Well, that’s my point is that there is more than enough work to go around in Africa that we don’t have to. And I think we look forward to other nations participating in these kind of humanitarian assistance kind of operations that are so important here.QUESTION:
What I was saying about Angola, as you know, China has a lot of oil interests in that.ADM FITZGERALD:
But in that area, I’m not sure about the oil (inaudible). Is that generally safe or is it in the brink of falling into some piracy (inaudible) or – ADM FITZGERALD:
Right now, they’re – the piracy has not moved into that area. We watch that very closely. The new offshore oil fields have just opened up. On the Congo River, they’re building the largest liquid natural gas terminal in the world. And when I was down in Rwanda, we had a good discussion with the chief of defense and with the chief of the navy about those kind of issues. And I think Angola is – although not a partner in Africa Partnership Station yet, has started to open up their aperture to how they’re going to protect those offshore fields and the ports and those kind of things. Clearly, that’s where their income and their lifeblood is coming from right now, so they’re very interested in making sure that it is protected.QUESTION:
I have some (inaudible). Ask one more question. (Inaudible) what happened to the Japanese Marshall ship off the coast of Oman. Do you – how do you see that incident? Do you analyze that kind of terrorist activities toward attack to the Marshall vessels?ADM FITZGERALD:
This particular – that single incident a month ago is what you’re talking about --QUESTION:
-- appeared to have been a terrorist incident. I don’t know that we can pin it down a whole lot because there is – the investigation is – I don’t know whether the investigation is done or not. What I’ve seen of the investigation was that it appeared to be a terrorist incident.QUESTION:
And did you do your own analysis on that incident?ADM FITZGERALD:
I really can’t say. It wasn’t in my AOR, so all I’ve seen is just – I’ve seen the press reports and some of the investigation reports on it. And that’s about the best I can say on it.QUESTION:
Yeah. Thank you.QUESTION:
Frederico. ADM FITZGERALD:
May I?ADM FITZGERALD:
I would like to switch to another one of the three hats that you wear. You mentioned the Balkans. I would like to – I would like you to assess the outcome until now of the allies’ mission in the Balkans and especially Kosovo – Kosovo – and whether you think that there is perspective possibility to reduce our troops there?ADM FITZGERALD:
Sure. I visit Kosovo at least once a month, usually two or three times a month so I’m quite aware of that. The mission’s been incredibly successful for – from the NATO perspective. The Kosovo Force is the – has 80 or 90 percent, somewhere in that range, acceptance with the population. I think they trust the population. But more importantly, the Kosovo police have moved up to almost the same level of trust in the population there, which means that we’re able to transfer over a lot of the responsibility for security in Kosovo to the Kosovo police. We’ve transferred over our first monastery. We’ve transferred over the Gazimestan protected site, so the Kosovo police have done a good job of accepting that. We’ve transferred over border patrol of the Albanian border. So we’ve been starting to unfix from those tasks that KFOR had to do and turn them over to Kosovo police, which has allowed us to draw down from 16,000 to 10,000 in the last year.
I think that you will see in the next few months a move to move down to the 5,000 range of troops based on the continued security improvements in the country. The real security threats in the country lie along the Ibar River and where we still have not had a good rule of law enforcement in the north of the country, in north Mitrovica and the Serb-controlled areas north of the Ibar. And I think EULEX will – that’s one of their prime goals for the coming season here.
So that, and then when you look at the ICJ ruling and the UN General Assembly petition or resolution that was just passed, give us the opportunity to continue to move forward. Certainly, the European Union will lead the talks on the technical areas of agreement that are technical areas that need to be agreed between Serbia and Kosovo which will, I think, continue to improve the security situation in the country, and I’m pretty hopeful there.
Bosnia was given a conditional acceptance into the MAP, the action plan for attaining NATO membership. They had to fulfill two conditions. One was to -- no one was on their ammunition destruction, which they seemed to be moving forward on, excess ammunition destruction. The other was on defense properties which has not had much movement. And of course, they’re in the middle of an election cycle right now, ending in October, and I would hope we’d see some movement forward once those elections are complete.
And then Serbia, which of course, is always a key player in the Balkans, has made good progress with the NATO Partnership for Peace Program. I think that the efforts of the European Union hopefully will start to pull them closer in the European framework integration and that will have a good effect on Serbia.
There continues to be a lot of irritants in the Balkans. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia still hasn’t solved its name issue with Greece which is keeping them out of NATO and out of the European Union and that needs to be fixed. But there’s also great hope. We brought in Croatian Albania into the European – into the NATO. They’re moving towards European Union membership. We’ve seen Montenegro achieve NATO MAP status. So I’m very upbeat on the Balkans.
I think on the military side, the Balkan (inaudible) level – we talk all the time. I’m always part of those meetings. The militaries are – exercise together. They talk a lot. And I think that all of that has increased stability in the Balkans. So I’m very upbeat there.QUESTION:
Thank you. I think that’s it. We have time for maybe one more question.QUESTION:
Yes, final. No good reporter wants --QUESTION:
I wonder if discussion is directly related with your current job, but I hope – I want to ask the – to U.S. senior military officer. After Cheonan
sinking allegedly by North Korea to (inaudible), Korea defense government is trying to reform of the Korean military system. So yesterday I visited U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, so at that time I saw the joint training NATO system. I felt the importance of the joint forces operation. So – during you’re – considering the trend of modern war and it’s better for your career in Europe or NATO – what do you think about the joint forces operation? And how do you cooperate with the other forces?ADM FITZGERALD:
Sure. We had the Goldwater-Nichols Act in 1986 that forced the military – the various components of the military into working in a joint manner, and so we’ve established I think – I forget how many combatant commands, 10 or 11 these days, but – so you have European Command, you have African Command, you have Central Command, and you already have Pacific Command. And they are charged with bringing all the capabilities to bear on a problem because these days when you talk a maritime problem, you can’t just talk about a navy; you have to talk about a navy, you have to talk about air that you may use for surveillance. You have to talk about space, which space systems you need to bring. You may have to talk about securing ports which may talk about armies. So the combatant commander is allowed to bring together the forces he needs to fix a problem, and I think that’s a very good thing. It also forces us to train together because you can’t just do this on a pick-up basis; you have to be trained to do that.
And so – for instance, when one of our aircraft carrier battle groups deploys, before it deploys it, has to be certified by Joint Forces Command as a joint element. And we go through a very large training cycle with the Joint Forces. So I’m not familiar enough with the Korean military to tell you what kind of model would be best, but I would tell you that for – certainly for the U.S. forces being able to execute in a joint environment has been very important how we do operations.QUESTION:
Well, on that point, how about – is there a trend for modern militaries to be able to work with other nations’ militaries, not to just do things by yourself that you almost have to work with multiple (inaudible) other nations?ADM FITZGERALD:
Yeah. Well, I mean, I think Afghanistan’s a perfect example of that. Operations in – that we’ve talked about here and the Gulf of Aden are a perfect example. That if you’re not interoperable – and interoperable doesn’t mean that you can take a sailor off of the ship and put him on this ship. I mean, that you can talk and coordinate between multiple entities, whether they’re ships, whether they’re airplanes, whatever, and that you can all work together. That’s absolutely critical. And so when you look in Afghanistan – I’ve forgotten how many nations are up there, but a lot. (Laughter).QUESTION:
It’s like 46 (ph) or whatever.ADM FITZGERALD:
Yeah, something like that. And the Gulf of Aden, I think – what – is 18 nations? QUESTION:
It’s like an Interpol military – (laughter) – like a military version of the Interpol?ADM FITZGERALD:
A military version of the Interpol. I don’t want to put those words in my mouth because I haven’t thought about that one. (Laughter.) But yes, being able to exchange – I mean, there’s three important things: You have to be able to exchange information, you have to have a common operating picture, and you have to have command and control. And if you can do those three things you can be interoperable. QUESTION:
(Inaudible) what do you do?ADM FITZGERALD:
(Laughter.) Well, great this has been a wonderful session. QUESTION:
Thank you.ADM FITZGERALD:
(Inaudible) didn’t have any final (inaudible).MODERATOR:
Thank you all for your questions. This event’s now concluded.
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